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Thanksgiving week is nearly over. We all realize that we should be thankful every day, but we also set aside the fourth Thursday of November as our official day of Thanksgiving. Through all our trials and obstacles, we all have many blessings. That is easy to say for some, while others may find themselves struggling.

I remember the first Thanksgiving without my dad and the last Thanksgiving with my mom. I don’t remember much about the last holiday with my dad, as we had no idea it was a significant event. We didn’t know he’d leave us suddenly at only 57 years old. My mom was different. We were told by her doctor it would be her last. So, for those of you dealing with an empty seat at your table, I am sorry — I understand.

It is hard to reconcile losing a loved one while also being thankful. Yes, we understand in principle we should be grateful for the time we enjoyed together, but in practice, we are sad and even angry at our loss. I’m sorry. The only encouragement I can provide is that we may never stop missing them, but the memories do slowly shift from the sadness we feel at our loss to the joy we will remember of our time together.

What is going through my mind this time of year?

I find myself remembering Thanksgiving as a child. For me, it was all about the family, food and parades. I loved watching my mom prepare the food. As she would clean the turkey, she’d hold it up like a puppet and make it dance on the countertop — a practice I continued until my kids stopped laughing and only rolled their eyes. I began the turkey dance again when my two grandsons arrived. They still laugh. The aromas, the sounds of marching bands coming from the television, seeing the massive balloons in the shapes of cartoon characters — all still fresh in my mind to this day. I have not been able to interest my grandsons in the parades, which still surprises me. They are still a focal point of my childhood memories.

My memories of food are eating a drumstick. I always felt like a Viking at a feast, holding that big turkey leg in my hand. I also remember my Aunt Helen and her purple Jell-O, mixed with whipped cream and molded into a large donut shape. Less favorably, I also remember a green Jell-O with carrot shavings in the bottom and wonder to this day who thought that would be a good idea. At the end of the meal, it was always left almost completely untouched, yet every year it would mysteriously reappear.

Thanksgiving in my mind and heart is all about family getting together, preparing food, enjoying being in the presence of loved ones and giving thanks.

This year is different, and I’ll confess, it is challenging my ability to be grateful. Traditionally, almost my entire family would come to our home, stay under our roof and celebrate for three to four days together. We have a large table cloth that everyone would sign and date each year with various comments.

This year, instead of the 30-plus family members from all over the country, we only had five at our table. New jobs, newborn babies and various other reasons is keeping most away. My two sons will be here, and I am grateful, but my daughter and son-in-law and my two grandsons will be spending Thanksgiving at home in California. I’m grateful they are together, healthy and with friends, but I am selfishly missing them. I guess there will be no dancing turkey this year.

Through it all, I am thankful beyond words. Arlene and I are married and this is our 43rd Thanksgiving together. This year, I became a cancer survivor. We have three healthy grown children, two healthy grandsons and incredible siblings and cousins around the country. We have great friends and worthwhile work to do. I will finish my new book this year and my fingers are crossed that pre-production (film) will begin for two of my books later this year.

I am also more thankful than the space I have left in this column for the many publications around the country that see a benefit in publishing “Positively Speaking” I do find great joy in speaking with you in this way. Thank you for joining me each week.

Oh, and remember, carrots and green Jell-O are a very bad idea. Resist the temptation.

As you sit around your table, do not let it pass as though a slight breeze brushing across your cheek. Look around the table. Capture the moment and carry it with you forever. As the song from the Greatest Showman says: “I’m trying to hold my breath … let it stay this way ... don’t let this moment end.”

I pray that you find great joy over this holiday.

God bless you and your family.

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Gary W. Moore is a syndicated columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com

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